The room was filled with a warm glow that spread its reach into the dark corners of the painted blue walls, the light creating shadows over discarded toys in its midst. In the middle of the room was a simple wooden bed and in it, a young boy. On some nights, the shadows evolved in his imagination, becoming frightening monsters that reached out to steal him away with slithering fingers. But on that cold winter night, the boy was unphased as he lay underneath his quilt covered with stars and spaceships, clutching an old book to his chest he grinned to himself. He was waiting eagerly, pushing up his round glasses a little higher on his nose every now and then with his blue eyes trained on the open doorway.
It was his favourite time of day, the time when someone would come tell him a story.
He had already chosen what he wanted them to read, as per usual. It was the tale of Peter Pan, a particular favourite of his. While he knew it from cover to cover, he never grew tired of its unchanging adventure, although, his dad certainly did. He would often try and convince his son to select something new from the library, or bring home new storybooks for him to read.
Yet Daniel never seemed to like these ones, they simply didn’t fit his specific qualifications. He wanted adventure, excitement and magic. He wanted to be lifted off his feet by fairies, swept up in storms and whisked away to other worlds. Peter Pan had all of these qualities… and yet, to his utter disappointment, the books his dad wanted to read were always dull, and absent of creativity. But that was to be expected; he was an adult after all.
Finally, the radio clicked off in the kitchen and a slow padding of slippered feet began through the little house as his grandfather made his way from the stairs. He stopped in the doorway, a silhouette in the dark hall until he moved forward into the warm light and gave his fair-haired grandchild a sad knowing smile.
“Your dad is going to be home late again tonight, Daniel.”
The excitement faded from the boys eyes as he loosened his tight grip on Peter Pan, his face collapsing into a deep pout.
His grandfather chuckled lightly, “Oh don’t make that face. You think Grandpa Edgar would leave you with no story? You’ll get your story, but I won’t be reading any Peter Pan.”
Daniel crossed his arms over his chest, staring out the second-floor window in defiance.
For a seven-year-old, Daniel was not particularly talkative, not at all in fact. He would mostly communicate in gestures and facial expressions which lead to many visits to the doctor and psychologist. Both of them quite puzzled by the blonde little boy. From what they could tell, he displayed high intelligence and had excellent health. His silence was like the mysteries he was ever so fond of and yet he hadn’t found his way to the end of it, the resolution.
Eventually, the psychologist decided that his lack of speech had to do with his mother passing away from cancer around the time he should have learned to speak. It wasn’t that no one bothered to encourage him. No, it was probably that he could feel the sadness, like a heavy storm raging war on the heart of his family. He could see it in their empty eyes.
Edgar moved across the room to settle himself into the worn green armchair across from his grandson, the customary storytelling chair. He seemed to be contemplating something deeply, furrowing his brow as he pulled a pair of glasses out of his pocket and placed them on his nose.
“Your mother used to love this story,” he said solemnly. “Wouldn’t you like to hear something she once read?”
Daniel’s attention was captured at the mention of his mother. His blue eyes wide as he nodded slowly.
“Alright Daniel, but this story will be unlike any you’ve ever heard,” Edgar warned his grandson with a mischievous smile. “Now, where to begin…
“A very long time ago, before you were born, there was a young boy named Elliot. Very much like you actually, he also had glasses and blonde hair. He lived in a small, ocean-side town called Everton that was so heavily surrounded by trees that it was not often visited by outsiders. The people who did visit, however, were usually very cunning adventurers who were clever enough to spot the hidden road that led into town.
While Elliot could never predict when a new guest would arrive, he always knew that they would stop by the Planetarium if they were unfamiliar with the layout of Everton. It was the most elegant, most historical, most abandoned building in town and it caught the eyes of travellers like flies to a new pot of honey. Unfortunately, though, the townspeople had lost their interest long ago when the theatre and a new diner had been constructed, leaving Elliot’s haven in the past. A star that burnt out while no one but his family had been watching.
The only people that came to building regularly were Elliot, his parents, and the janitor who often times, just cleaned the foyer and left the rest of the building to its own demise. Regardless of its poor appearance, the Planetarium was always Elliot’s favourite place to escape on hot summer mornings, rainy afternoons, and frozen winter evenings. Anytime he could sneak away from his chores, the old dusty rooms were waiting patiently for him to visit and read his way to other galaxies.
One evening as he sat by the window, reading and looking out through his telescope at the stars that emerged in the falling light, he heard voices coming down the hallway. They argued about something they referred to as the ‘treasure.’
‘According to this letter, it’s somewhere in this garbage dump of a town,’ a woman’s voice exclaimed with an unmistakable air of superiority.
‘She sounds like a terribly unfriendly lady,’ Elliot thought to himself as he quietly put his telescope back in its old case.
‘I’m afraid, Margaret, that you may be wrong,’ a male voice retorted bitterly.
‘Now, now, let’s handle this in a professional manner,’ an older male voice reasoned with the two.
As they quickly approached, Elliot crawled into the shadows behind a planetary display, out of sight but still able to glimpse the strangers as they approached.
‘The money being offered for this artefact is extraordinary. I’d be able to get myself that Lamborghini I’ve always wanted,’ the man the bitter voice muttered, mostly to himself it seemed, as no one was paying any attention to his greedy daydream.
From his hiding place, Elliot held back a laugh.
‘Yes Carlton, we’d all be quite rich. Now let’s focus on finding the gold telescope first,’ said the woman named Margaret.
Elliot’s eyes went wide and his jaw fell as he registered what he had just heard.
They wanted his families telescope.”
Daniel’s grandfather stopped telling the story for a moment and leaned forward on his chair.
Daniel shook the sleep from his blinking eyes and leaned forward too, hanging on to every word with all the fight he had.
“You see, Daniel, that telescope was originally owned by a pirate who came to Everton. A troubled pirate whose name was lost in time, along with all of his treasure. All, except a small telescope that he used to gaze up at the stars and navigate his way across the ocean. In his old age, he became more an astronomer than a pirate really, but the townspeople were not a particularly forgiving bunch. They had heard of him and his past thievery, and they knew how to hold a grudge.
Elliot’s great-grandparents were the only ones who welcomed him. They had an appreciation for looking up at the stars just as the pirate did, seeing hope in each tiny glimmer of light so far away, yet ever-present.
One day, the townspeople decided that the pirate had been around long enough and set out to force him from town. Thankfully, he was clever and knew when his welcome was worn. He was long gone by the time they marched down the street to the inn where he stayed.
But before he left, he gifted the one family that had shown him kindness with his precious golden telescope. He told them to pass it down to their children as he would have done on his own had he had a family. He begged them to carry on this love of stars and adventure, and never fall for greed as he once did…”
The time had flown by in his story as Edgar recalled the words and their meaning. He glanced over at his grandson and realized the child had fallen asleep. He smiled as he reached into the bag he had brought with him and continued speaking to the sleeping child.
“The telescope is worth a great deal, my boy. But it is worth far more to our family than it is in dollars it could be sold for. I knew that long before those greedy people came to town, and I did well to remember it long after they left. Empty handed I might add.”
Edgar chuckled, “I led them on quite the goose chase. I’ll tell you about how I thwarted their plans another time, and maybe one day, I’ll take you there. You’d love the planetarium.”
Edgar shuffled over to his grandson and gently swapped the old copy of Peter Pan from the sleeping child for a newspaper-wrapped package. Leaving the room as quietly as he could before whispering into the darkness.
“Good night, Daniel. I hope this helps you find your own adventure someday.”
The door shut behind him with a click and Daniel sat up abruptly, yawning as he looked around realizing he missed the end of the story. But in his hands, underneath the wrappings he tore away, Daniel found the rest of it.
A golden telescope.
His heart beat quicker than ever before with excitement and he smiled in the darkness. Turning over the smooth surface in his hands he found writing scratched on the golden surface that shined in the moonlight.
Daniel’s face scrunched up with focus as he lifted the corner of his mouth and read the words with great difficulty.
“F-for…,” he sputtered out, and then, as though someone had turned key in the lock that held his voice, he breathed the words out smoothly. “My fellow Stargazers.”